Howling gales and crashing waves pounded the coastline of Pakistan and India on Thursday as Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall in Gujarat, and was on course to reach Sindh’s Keti Bandar area early on Friday.
The cyclone came ashore as a Category 1 storm and Pakistan’s coastal areas, including Karachi, remained largely spared.
Forecasters in both countries warned that Biparjoy, whose name means “disaster” in Bengali, was likely to devastate homes and tear down power lines as it barrels through India’s western state of Gujarat, where it made landfall near the port of Jakhau.
Low-lying roads started to flood on Thursday afternoon after hours of rain. Gusting winds blew sheets of water that reduced visibility with a dull grey mist.
More than 175,000 people, including 82,000 in Pakistan, fled the storm’s predicted path.
Biparjoy was also on course to becoming the longest-lived cyclone in the Arabian Sea, overtaking Kyarr in 2019, which lasted nine days and 15 hours, according to India’s Meteorological Department.
As of June 14, the Arabian Sea had sustained Biparjoy for over eight days. Warm sea surface temperatures have contributed to the cyclone’s unusually long lifespan.
Its landfall continued late in the night and was followed by brief and long spells of wind and dust storms and thundershowers along Sindh’s coast, temporarily disconnecting land access to some coastal towns.
Light showers were recorded in Karachi’s Clifton, Defence Housing Authority, Sharea Faisal, Keamari and other areas.
In Shah Bandar, a port town 200km from Hyderabad, heavy rains started at 2pm and continued throughout the day in intervals, with seawater entering several houses, according to Dawn.com.
Light showers with strong winds were also reported in Badin, Chuhar Jamali, Hyderabad, Thatta and Sujawal.
In India, strong winds, heavy rain and high tides lashed the Gujarat coast late on Thursday. Deserted coastal towns were battered in the dark in parts of the state as power went out after electricity poles fell and some trees were uprooted by gusty winds, Reuters quoted officials as saying.
Storm’s impact to reduce
According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), weather was more intense on India’s coast, as it was directly hit by the storm.
“It was the system’s outer periphery that crossed over Keti Bandar. Pakistan’s coast, fortunately, remained largely safe. There weren’t heavy to extreme rainfall spells along Sindh’s coast as we were expecting,” a senior PMD official said.
This development, he pointed out, indicated that the storm’s impact would further reduce on Friday (today), as the cyclone would gradually degrade into a low depression area, depending on the environment. The system, he said, would probably move towards India’s Rajasthan.
Climate Minister Sherry Rehman tweeted at around 9pm on Thursday that the cyclone had reportedly hit Gujarat, but was still at a distance from Pakistan and “will likely begin counterclockwise landfall around or after midnight in our coastal areas”.
She warned that the sea might be rough but asked citizens not to panic. “All preparations are in place. Don’t go out to ‘see the storm’ or venture into the water. Sindh police have better things to do right now than plead for picnickers to come back to dry land,” she said.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre also said Biparjoy would continue moving overnight into Sindh.
Sardar Sarfaraz, the chief meteorologist at the PMD, said various areas in Sindh had been receiving rain and experiencing strong winds under the impact of this weather system, Dawn.com reported.
He said the cyclone had not directly hit any of the areas in Pakistan as of Thursday night, though “some of the areas in the country came under its outer periphery”.
‘Can’t fight nature’
The Indian Meteorological Department said in a bulletin that the storm hit the coastline with winds of 125 kph and gusts of up to 140 kph at 6:30pm local time.
It was forecast to maintain its current strength through to midnight, with a two-metre tidal surge battering low-lying areas until the eye of the storm crossed the coast.
Almost all stores were closed, and shoppers had crowded the few that remained open to buy last-minute food and water supplies.